For many years, we’ve had a dear family friend who’s worked as a flight attendant for Delta. When we lived in Amsterdam and Bell was working on her PhD, we didn’t have very much money and our friend’s standby buddy passes on Delta flights helped us enormously in returning to Florida for visits. In 2008, I even used a pass to fly to Buenos Aires, Argentina as Bell had an academic research conference in Montevideo, Uruguay. The way standby tickets work is that passengers get the best available seat on a flight if there are seats available. On average, the purchase price is about half of what you would expect to pay for a regular plane ticket, more or less. We have been stuck overnight a couple times, but we’ve also been fortunate to sit in Delta Business Elite on TransAtlantic flights quite a few times. Some international carriers have a business class and a first class, but Delta’s Business Elite is their “first class” on overseas flights.
Before the flight even takes off, flight attendants offer Delta Business Elite passengers a choice of champagne (the real stuff from France) or orange juice. Previously, I always chose the champagne (security can be a headache, right?). But on this most recent trip, at 10:30am and after drinking several strong Belgian beers the night before, I thought orange juice was a better idea (which is too bad because Bell and I rarely buy champagne and it’s a nice treat).
Asides from great food and drinks, a major highlight of Delta Business Elite flights overseas is fully reclining flat bed seating, which has become industry standard in first class among major carriers internationally. Plane configurations differ, but on my flight from Brussels to New York, the Boeing 767 featured 36 Business Elite seats in a 1-2-1 configuration over the first 8 rows of the airplane. I was fortunate enough to receive a window seat, meaning there wasn’t even anybody sitting next to me. And after being up late on my last night in Brussels, the flat bed seat came in really handy for a couple hours of shut eye (and I can rarely sleep on planes).
Dining in Delta Business Elite is quite the experience because the food, wine and cocktail options are good quality and the flight attendants lay a white table cloth on your tray table. Fine dining at 35,000 feet is pretty cool, but it definitely spoils you, and I do feel a little guilty for the people crammed in economy (which is typically us anyway). Delta Business Elite seats are typically around 4-5 times more expensive than an economy seat at regular price, so the price point is one that makes the decision out of the question for most people.
The starters were smoked salmon and shrimp, followed by Thai red curry soup and salad. Everything was very tasty, but the steak and potatoes au gratin were especially good and would pass muster in just about every steak restaurant below 35,000 feet. After the main course, the flight attendants came around with a dessert tray, offering a choice of a fudge sundae with lots of topping selections, or a fancy cheese assortment with mixed fruit. Unfortunately, being lactose intolerant I only took the fruit, but fresh grapes and strawberries are a nice way to wash down a delicious multi-course meal. Later in the flight, fresh baked chocolate chip cookies were served, as well as a choice of quality snacks.
Before arriving in New York we were given a second meal option, and as we gained six hours in time, after just over six hours in the air, it was technically a second lunch! The second meal is lighter and the choice was a salad or lobster rolls. I was excited about the lobster rolls because they’re popular in New England, but I only eat them on occasion. I do however know a good lobster roll, and while they weren’t the best I’ve had, they were good enough to be served in many seafood houses and lobster shacks.
My window view of the beaches and small islands of New York state, before touching down at JFK Airport, wasn’t too shabby either. The entire experience was a nice consolation for coming home after a fun and interesting few weeks between Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Romania. While Delta Business Elite seats are expensive, it might be worth it for some to cash in frequent flyer miles to experience this at least once if, like us, you can’t afford the normal cost, because there really aren’t any other cons to note here.